In The Family Altar, the Puritan writer Oliver Heywood makes the case for family or household worship. We have already discussed Heywood’s belief that family worship is essential for the proper functioning not only of the family, but also the Church and wider society. We must now consider exactly what he meant when he spoke of a family altar: “By altar I mean (considered as an instance of synecdoche) all the worship of God to be performed in families” (The Whole Works of the Rev. Oliver Heywood, Volume 4:305). He also said: “Christian families are churches, and churches must have altars for God’s worship” (4:320).
Perhaps it sounds strange to refer to a family as a church. In fact, Heywood focused on three different spheres in which worship takes place: the congregation, the family, and in private. He never intended for worship at the family level to take away from the ministry of the Word to the congregation, and he used an analogy between the two to clarify that only certain families can be thought of in that way.
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